Column by Mary Lee Talbot.
“We are trapped in the scarcity myth,” said the Very Rev. Tracey Lind at the 9:15 a.m. Monday Devotional Hour. “We have bought into the falsity of scarcity when God has provided enough for us not only to survive, but thrive.”
Her texts were 2 Kings 4:42-44 and John 6:1-14, and her title was “Busting the Myth of Scarcity.”
“I was reading the story of a woman living hand to mouth,” Lind said. “She wrote that she was making potato soup on a Friday and hoped that it would last until Monday when the food pantry opened. She remembered a friend who loved potato soup, and so she put in some more ingredients and drove off to share the soup with her friend. She wrote, ‘Sharing made the soup taste better. It was my offering of thanksgiving.’”
Lind asserted that we feel trapped when we try to put together enough money for food, to pay the mortgage, to pay for prescriptions and the phone bill. Then we feel trapped if we have to pay for college, help elderly parents and save for retirement.
“Those of us who manage nonprofits try to balance the budget and keep the institution financially sustainable,” she said.
“Walter Brueggemann talks about the liturgy of abundance in the beginning of the Hebrew scriptures. We live in the tension between abundance and scarcity,” Lind said. “The power of the future is not in the hands of those who believe in scarcity; the power of the future is in the hands of those who believe in abundance.”
In the scripture from Second Kings, she retold the story of Elisha accepting the first fruits of the harvest from an anonymous farmer. Elisha told his servant to give the grain to the people, and the servant did not think it would be enough. Elisha tells him it will be enough, and there will be some left over.
“There is always more than enough. All things work together for good to those who love God, as the apostle Paul said,” she said. “This was a miracle generated by an anonymous donor and the faithful generosity of a prophet.
“Jesus repeats this miracle in all four gospels. It was an important story for the early church community, and it is an important story for today. Busting the myth of scarcity was the one of the most radical, core teachings Jesus ever did.”
John sets his story at Passover, and his readers would have been familiar with the Elisha story as well as the Passover story. In Jesus’ time they were being oppressed by another pharaoh: Rome, Lind said.
“Jesus asks his disciple, Philip, what they have to give to the people and he did not know. Philip was not making light of the concern; similar words have come out of my mouth,” she said.
“Jesus, the brilliant community organizer, tells Philip to have everyone sit down in groups of 100 or 50, about the size of small village or tribe,” Lind said. “He took the five loaves and two fish and lifted them to God, and he trusted and believed it would be enough. It was enough.”
That was a sign of Jesus’ power and authority, Lind asserted. Did it happen magically? “Why would Jesus multiply the loaves and fishes magically now? Why fall prey to the same temptation he resisted in the desert? Jesus would show the reign of God.” Lind said, “The miracle was in the sharing. The Creator provided the barley and the fish. The farmer grew the barley, and the fisherman caught the fish. The baker made the barley loaves, and the chef cooked the fish. The boy took the risk to offer what he had; I like to think he could have refused, but he gave away what he had in trust what it would be enough.
“I think what happened was that as they were distributing the loaves and fishes that others came forward to share. Surely some had brought a basket or a bag of food. They were on their way to or from the market. Few would have spent the day without food unprepared.”
Lind said that people came forward with their offerings, and there was a banquet, and the people were satisfied.
“Like all potlucks, there were leftovers. Potlucks — what the church does best — is a metaphor of the abundance in community. We change individual lives and our collective life,” she said.
Jesus, like Elisha, took a risk that there would be enough.
“He had faith that there would be enough. There is always enough of whatever we really need, and Jesus always asks more of us even when we don’t think we have it to give,” Lind said.
There was abundance in the remains.
“Jesus collected up ‘the fragments of the feast’ perhaps to send them home with people. We don’t know what happened to the leftovers. In Jesus, we don’t lose what is broken, because it is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. It is the foretaste of the Eucharist, the principal ritual meal of justice and community,” she said.
The leftovers are for those not present, because the Messianic banquet is for everyone. Starvation and hunger are not part of the divine plan, Lind said. We are expected to share the abundance. Some do that through a soup kitchen, or a community garden or a farmer’s market, she said.
“Others take the community table upstream to eliminate hunger through justice via public policy. I am convinced that Jesus wants us to invite and welcome everyone with no prerequisites, and I hope the church catches up soon. Abundance is a gift, but it does not happen without human participation,” she said.
The maker of the potato soup, Doreen Frick, wrote that she realized that she was rich in things that matter.
“We might not always get what we want, but in participation with the grace of God, we will get what we need. When you go home from here, bust the myth of scarcity,” Lind said.
The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, director of the Department of Religion, presided. The Rev. Natalie Hansen read the scripture. Hansen is the pastor of Christ First United Methodist Church in Jamestown and the former superintendent of the Niagara Frontier District of the Upper New York United Methodist Conference. The Motet Choir sang “Bring, O Morn, Thy Music,” with text by William Gannett and music by Howard Helvey. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, led the choir.
Update: This story has been corrected to reflect Lind’s title as the Very Rev.